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    Amma Darko  

Amma Darko, born in 1956, is a writer between Africa and Europe.

Thorough research is essential for her and she spends a lot of time with interviews and in archives. For the novel "Faceless", she put on dingy clothes and mingled with the inhabitants of the suburb "Sodom and Gomorrha" in Accra.

The Ghanaian had intended to study Creative Writing, but that was and still is impossible in her country. She graduated in Industrial Design and worked for a year in a center for technological counselling at the university of Kumasi. Afterwards, she had planned to live for a while in the U.S., but she did not succeed. She came to Germany instead, where she stayed from 1981 until 1987 and wrote her first novel.

After her return from Germany, her first novel was published in German translation. The English publisher Heinemann was to bring out the original version later on.

Amma Darko has been working as a tax inspector and has now retired.

In 1998/99, she had a scholarship from "Akademie Schloss Solitude". J.M. Coetzee had appointed her. She contributed to the Solitude publications, "Lexikon der sperrigen Wörter" (2010) and "Solitude Atlas" (2015).

In 2008, she received the most important literary prize in her country, the Ghana Book Award. She regularly takes part in authors' congresses and literature festivals all over the world.

Her books are often object of scientific analysis and there are many Bachelor and Master Thesis about different aspects of her work. Professor Victor C. Odamtten has devoted a book to her: "Broadening the Horizon", containing articles from different researchers about her writings.

„Faceless“ has been selected for the official literature list of the “West Africa Examination Council for Senior Secondary Schools” and belongs now to the West African school canon.


Amma Darko about her name and her origins:

Questions and enquiries usually put or made of me, both in and outside Ghana, are the basis for these series of thoughts and remarks from me. Many who know DARKO to be my maiden name yet see my marriage bands on my finger and read everywhere that I am married, ask to know why I maintained my maiden name in the writing world. While this phenomenon is not unusual in the West, it still is here. A woman is expected to adopt the name of the husband upon marriage. The reason in my case is that, I established myself as a writer with my maiden name before I legally took on my marital name. And in the writing world, an established name can make a whole lot of difference. To change my name could be tantamount to starting afresh and presenting myself as a new author to the world.

There is also the question of my tribe.

I am a Fanti. Fanti is the dominant tribe in the Central Region of Ghana. The Central Region is where most of Ghana's historical slave castles and forts can be found. I inherited the name DARKO from my late father. DARKO is not a Fanti surname. My father was not a Fanti. In Ghana, it is easy to know the day of birth of a person by the local name, usually the first name he carries. It is also easy to determine one's tribe to a great extent, from one's surname. So sometimes I raise eyebrows when I declare to people who know me as DARKO, that I am a Fanti.

In Ghana a child carries the name of the father automatically once the father acknowledges the child as his. It is tradition. It should therefore follow that the child would belong to the father's tribe. In Ghana it gets tricky when a child carries the father's name but is of a matrilineal lineage. Because in such a situation, while the child carries the surname of the father as expected, being of a matrilineal lineage, the same child is deemed to hail from the mother's tribe.

There are three scenarios. When both parents hail from the same tribe, the identity of the children's tribe is straightforward and simple. They belong to the parents’ tribe. That explains why many families prefer marriages within the family.

When one parent hails from a clan with matrilineal lineage, and the other parent hails from a patrilineal clan, a complication can ensue. Most of the time however, the child ends up with the father's tribe, if the mother's family is willing to let go, which is the case most of the time.

The third scenario is where I fall in. My parents hailed from different tribes. My late father was of the AKWAPIM tribe and hailed from the mountainous town called ABURI in the Eastern region. My late mother was a FANTI, from SALTPOND in the Central Region. I carry my father's surname DARKO but I belong to my mother's tribe. Many people who are familiar with Ghanaian surnames often wonder why I have a typical AKWAPIM surname but claim to be a FANTI. The explanation is that, while many FANTI clans are matrilineal, many AKWAPIM clans are also patrilineal. But first, what is all this about Matrilineal and Patrilineal? If a family is matrilineal, the children inherit the mother, not the father. The father is rather inherited by the nieces and nephews. With a patrilineal family, the children inherit the father directly.

Coincidentally, my father's clan happened to be one of a few Akwapim matrilineal lineages. So that, like the first scenario where both parents hailed from the same tribe and therefore had same lineage, my parents, though they were of different tribes, also had same matrilineal lineage. It therefore followed automatically that while I carried my father's surname, I belonged to my mother's tribe.

(Amma Darko, 2006)